F. Hoffmann-LaRoche Ltd., the makers of Accutane (isotretinoin), introduced the medication in 1982 as a treatment for severe acne and it soon became widely popular. However, a number of individuals allege they developed inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease because they were taking Accutane; those who developed these conditions also allege that they were not sufficiently warned about the risks.
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A New Jersey jury in 2010 ordered the holding company, Roche Holding AG, to pay $25.16 million in damages to one individual, Andrew McCarrell, who used Accutane and claimed in an Accutane lawsuit that he developed inflammatory bowel disease as a result. McCarrell said he had to have his colon surgically removed due to the drug, according to Bloomberg News. His suit, plus five other successful actions against the company, resulted in damages totaling $56 million.
“Our sympathies remain with Andrew McCarrell over his disease,” company officials said in a statement published by Bloomberg News. “Both the finding and the amount of damages were unsupported by the evidence. Roche acted appropriately in providing information about Accutane, including a direct warning about inflammatory bowel disease, to the medical, scientific and regulatory communities.”
Unlike many pharmaceutical lawsuits that get settled out of court, a number of Accutane lawsuits have gone to trial. The company has succeeded in getting several cases dismissed and has filed appeals when jury verdicts went against Roche. One case in Florida involving a judgment of $7.2 million was overturned by an appeals court.
However, a number of plaintiffs have won multi-million dollar lawsuits against the company.
The Swiss-based drug company withdrew the product from the market in 2009. Generic versions of it still are available.
Perhaps the best known plaintiff is James Marshall, 45, a Hollywood actor who sued the drug manufacturer for $11 million in damages. Marshall claimed that his promising career was destroyed after he had to have his colon surgically removed due to inflammatory bowel disease, which Marshall said was caused by Accutane. Marshall appeared in the film "A Few Good Men."
Marshall's suit became part of a consolidated lawsuit. However, a court denied damages for Marshall and a second defendant, according to the Times Union newspaper based in the Albany, N.Y. region. However, Judge Carol E. Higbee of the Atlantic County Superior Court, who presided over the consolidated lawsuit, affirmed the jury verdict of $2 million awarded to a third defendant, Gillian Gaghan.
Accutane, which was prescribed to treat severe acne, has been linked by plaintiffs suing the manufacturer, F. Hoffman-LaRoche Ltd., to inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. Some cases have been settled out of court, but some have gone to jury trials and some juries have awarded multi-million dollar settlements to plaintiffs. Roche also has succeeded in appealing some jury verdicts and getting cases dismissed.